The media launch of Holden’s Commodore would have to be the most significant release of a new model in this country for 2018.
Sadly, I wasn’t there for it. I had made prior arrangements to be in Melbourne for a rock concert which happened to fall on the same day.
Nevertheless, I was scheduled into one of the new models on my home patch for two weeks after my return, becoming one of the first journalists to have a home patch drive of the exciting new model.
Of course, Commodore is no longer Australian, the closing down of all Australian new car manufacturing took care of that, the new model is sourced completely built-up from Europe.
The new Commodore lands here with three engine variations. Sadly, it is now sans V8, but there are two 2-litre, four-cylinder models, one petrol and one diesel, and a 3.6-litre V6 model with four-wheel-drive. The four-cylinder units are both turbocharged and drive through the front wheels only.
While the drivelines are vastly different to what Commodore owners have previously enjoyed, there are both wagon and liftback options along with varying grade levels. Over time, I’m sure I’ll work my way through several variants in the 12-model line-up, the first out of the block was a V6 RS-V liftback.
The new model is everything a Commodore owner would relate to, it is big car, quiet, comfortable and in V6 form, very powerful, although it took me a while to get my head around the fact that it is four-wheel-drive and the engine sits transversely under the bonnet, in contrast to its predecessor which was a longitudinal configuration.
Developing 235kW and 381Nm, the engine is strong and delivers with a nice sound, it isn’t overbearing, but you can tell it is an angry, feisty unit which likes to work hard. Of course, being a large capacity V6 it doesn’t have to hunt towards the high end of the rev band, it is hooked to a conventional nine-speed automatic transmission that works to keep the revs low, changing early so that fuel use is minimised. On that subject, Holden claim an 8.9l/100km (32mpg) combined cycle average for the V6.
The driveline is wonderful, it is silky smooth in all areas and provides that large car power that we have come to expect from the big Aussie battlers down under. At open road speed, movement is hushed and it glides over road ripples balanced and poised.
A lot of the latter is due to the all-drive system, the new Commodore feels controlled and tight in the chassis. Saying that, the suspension is absorbent, the spring and damper rates are biased towards comfort and the in-cabin ride is glorious and it’s not often I say that about any car on Christchurch battered roads.
I took the test car on my favoured route east of the Malvern Hills and it cruises the high country roads beautifully, it could easily be mistaken for a further development of its Aussie predecessor such is its poise and level of comfort.
When pushed into a quick corner there is surety within the floorpan that provides confidence, there is a lot of feedback from what the tyres are doing in relation to the road surface, and sitting on high quality, sport specification Continental rubber (245/45 x 18in) there is a lot of natural grip and directional stability on offer.
Of course, the new Commodore is all about replicating the large car balance we are used to, and it does that brilliantly. Not only is there a huge area to spread around inside, but there is huge load space.
On our Melbourne trip, my wife and I were picked up from the central city and taken to the airport by a friend who has recently purchased one of the last generation Aussie Commodores, our two large suitcases were difficult to load into the boot through the narrow opening. Not so in the newcomer, the same suitcases were easily transported.
In RS-V specification, the V6 liftback sits at $58,990, that fits well with the last of the outgoing models. For that money it comes with a high degree of specification, major items include full leather trim with heated seats, MyLink infotainment network, head-up display, paddle-shift transmission selectors and satellite navigation.
Of course, even though it is European sourced the new generation Commodore qualifies for a five-star Australasian New Car Assessment Program safety rating.
Even though it is different in many areas, General Motors has done well to make the new Commodore feel like what a buyer would expect from the nameplate. From my first experience, I’d go as far as to say it has done that well, it feels very Commodore-like and is a pleasurable drive for all occupants.
Watch this space for further drives, I’m scheduled into a Calais soon and it is my intention to further report its dynamics in-depth.